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Retail vacancy rates hit four-year high

The retail vacancy rate peaked at 13% in the first half of 2019, new research has shown. This was a 6% increase year on year, and is the highest the rate has been since August 2015.

A total of 22,115 new stores opened during the period – up 12% from 19,803 in the first half of 2018. However, the number of closures rose by 6.4%, from 24,205 to 25,762, The Local Data Company found.

The Local Data Company, said fashion retail had been hit hard: “The fashion sector continues to shrink. Three fashion categories – fashion shops, men’s clothing and women’s clothing –- recorded a combined net decline of 285 stores.

“Rising costs, increasing pressure from online, and a fall in high street footfall have resulted in the departure of brands such as Monsoon, Select Fashion, New Look and Burton from our high streets. More closures are expected across the rest of 2019, and the Monsoon/Accessorize and Arcadia CVAs are likely to lead to more closures.”

Mintel retail analyst Chana Baram added: “The high street fashion market has proven difficult in the last couple of years. Retailers are faced with ongoing challenges to try to encourage customers to come through the door.

“The department stores and retailers with a large high street presence, such as House of Fraser, Debenhams, M&S, New Look and Arcadia, are struggling to compete with online competitors, and the continuing rise in rents and business rates.

“Several have resorted to CVAs in order to close down non-profitable stores. With online shopping so commonplace. there is much less of a need for retailers to have such large store portfolios.”

The Local Data Company’s latest GB Retail and Leisure Market Analysis also showed that the overall UK vacancy rate rose by 0.6% year on year in the first half – reaching a five-year high at 11.8%.


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